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China displaces 9,000 people for world's largest telescope

The People's Republic is set launch this fall a radio telescope that's twice the size of Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, currently the world's largest such device.

The FAST radio telescope will listen to the universe.
National Astronomical Observatory of China

Aliens hiding from our gaze have yet another reason to fear: China.

The country is on track to build the world's largest radio telescope. FAST, short for the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope, will dwarf Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, currently the largest radio telescope on the planet.

There is a human cost to the massive project, though. China said Tuesday more than 9,000 people are being required to leave their homes to make space for the telescope and its support facilities, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency. In compensation, the Chinese government is paying displaced families 10,000 yuan, which converts roughly to $1,530, AU$2,150 or‎ £1,075.

Located in the Guizhou Province, the telescope will have 4,500 11-metre-long (36 foot) panels that will reflect interplanetary radio waves to the massive 30-tonne retina that lies suspended in the middle. In layman's terms, the telescope will be used to listen to the universe.

"With a larger signal receiving area and more flexibility, FAST will be able to scan two times more sky area than Arecibo, with three to five times higher sensitivity," Li Di, a chief scientist from the National Astronomical Observatory of China, told the China Daily in November.

He noted that the telescope's size is such that it could hold enough liquid to house five wine bottles for each of the world's 7 billion residents.

FAST, first proposed more than 20 years ago, is tentatively scheduled to launch in September.